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Lament But Hold God to His Promises

July 1, 2018

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Pentecost 6                                              Trinity Lutheran Church

1 July 2018                                                Murdock, NE

 

+ Jesu Juva +

 

Lamentations 3:22-33

 

What word do you hear in “Lamentations”? Yes, that’s right: “lament.” A lament is a sad song. A hymn or prayer full of deep grief. A dirge. A requiem if you will. As you sing and pray it you cry. Weep. Wail. There is the outburst of incredible heartache, angst and pain. Like when a precious loved one or a good friend dies. You lament in the face of death, pain or some other trial. So too the Old Testament nation of Israel! Israel has experienced a single tragic event: the fall of Jerusalem.

 

In the Book of Lamentations teardrops stain line after line. Choked-up sobs and unrestrained wailing echo and reecho from stanza to stanza. Sustained laments and almost endless cries of anguish and pain. Israel has suffered the devastatingly cruel ravages of war. All is in shambles. Shattered. Israel is as good as dead. Can she go on? Can you? No doubt you’ve suffered immense woe when you’ve lost a dear loved one or when some illness or other kind of tragedy ruins your life. If you haven’t yet, you will.

 

In these troubled times it feels like you’re locked up in a dark, tightly sealed chamber of horrors. You feel like the Lord Himself is tearing you apart like a grizzly bear or eating you alive like a great white shark. You feel like God is never-endingly shooting arrow after arrow into your back. You feel like everyone’s laughing at you, mocking you and judging you. In fact, when you’re at your lowest, you’re tempted to believe that God’s existence and gracious help is only a delusion, a mirage. And you feel like the biggest nimrod in the world.

 

St. Paul, however, in Romans 15:4 tells us that all Old Testament Scripture “was written for our instruction.” Written for our instruction! So learn from Lamentations today. Indeed! Learn what to do when you face an overwhelming illness, catastrophe, trial, tribulation or death. Learn what to do when it appears that God is silent, that God isn’t listening or that perhaps God is even standing against you and not for you.

 

I’ll cut right to the chase and give you the answer. Here’s what you do. Do not drown in despair. Instead, depend on God all the more. Trust God’s Word of promise! Especially from today’s text: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end.”  

 

Did you hear that? With those words you get in God’s face and say with all boldness and confidence: “But you promised!” You stick like a cockle burr in God’s hair and cry out: “But you promised! You said your love is steadfast! It never ceases! You said your mercies are forever!”

 

With the Lamentation promissory sermon in your ears and heart you wrestle with God like Jacob did in Genesis 32 and you don’t let go until God blesses you according to His Word of promise. You get in God’s grill just like childless Anna did when she cried profusely as she prayed from the heart from a child (1 Samuel 1:12-13). Be like the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15 who refused to be silent even when Jesus wouldn’t even say a word. Be like Jairus whose daughter was at death’s door and died. Be like the woman that had been subject to bleeding for 12 years and was getting worse (Mark 5). You cry out! You lament. But included in your lament is faith that prays and holds God to His promise. Prayer that prevails! Upon God! Again, be like Jairus who fell at Jesus’ feet and “pleaded earnestly with him, ‘My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.’ So Jesus went with him.” And even when Jesus finally arrived, finding Jairus’ twelve-year old daughter dead, when all seemed lost, Jesus said, “‘Talitha koumi!’” He raised her from the sleep of death. That’s His cup of tea you know: raising the dead!

 

Now, I’d better get back to Lamentations. It’s incredible. It joyfully blows my mind! In the face of utter destruction and bitter death FAITH does not despair but pursues God. Faith does not give up but insists. Faith does not let go but clings. Faith insists on God’s generosity. Faith doggedly hopes and cries out for what appears to be unexpected and impossible. Since “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; [since] His mercies never come to an end,” … “I will hope in him.” Since “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; [since] His mercies never come to an end” I will “wait for him”; “seek him.” I will “wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”

 

In fact, and this is really joyfully mind-blowing, “it is good for a man that he bear the yoke [of disaster/catastrophe/trial/tribulation/even death] in his youth.” Why? Here’s why. As you “sit alone in silence,” as you “put your mouth in the dust,” as you “give your cheek to the one who strikes,” and as you are insulted, YOU LEARN TO REPENT OF YOUR SINS AND MOST IMPORTANTLY TO TRUST IN THE LORD JESUS CHRIST who “has compassion” and gives you the “abundance” of His Good Friday “steadfast love.”

 

Israel experienced the utter disaster of Jerusalem’s destruction. It was heart wrenching.   However, it was God’s way of teaching Israel to repent of her idolatry and then learn to trust in Him all the more. So also with you His new Israel! For your good God uses disease, disaster, calamity, heartaches, pains, trials and even death. You too must learn to repent of your idolatry in order to trust Jesus alone for forgiveness, life and salvation.

 

Jesus has sent me to tell you that you have His forgiveness. That you have life. That you have salvation. Proof is His all- atoning-for-sin-and-for-every-sinner-death-on-the-Good-Friday-cross. Proof is that you bear His divine and saving Name / His brand from holy baptism and His own divine promise that goes with it: “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,” (Mark 16:16). Proof is that you eat and drink Christ’s crucified, risen and ascended Body and Blood believing His divine promise “given and shed for you for the remission of your sins.”

 

So, in every tragedy, adversity, hardship, difficulty or death (someone else’s or even yours) “wait for him [the LORD].” “Seek Him.” Where? In His Word of promise to you and for you. There, in His Word, He promises to be God FOR YOU.

 

“The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” Waiting and seeking spells

F-A-I-T-H. Clinging to Jesus. Being His hanger on. Just ask Jairus, the woman healed from the incessant bleeding or the lassie who was just 12. They were His hangers on! Jesus saved them. He has saved you too.

 

So go ahead. In all your adversity and pain lament away. The tears will flow. The heart will ache. However, in the midst of your lamentations hold the Lord to His gospel promises! Namely, that you are His died for and redeemed son or daughter. That because you are forgiven for Jesus’ sake your body (as well as all believers) will be raised from the dead on the Last Day. In your lamenting dare Jesus to speak another “Talitha koumi” to you when He appears to judge the living and the dead! In your lamenting dare to demand from Jesus what He promises, that, “the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end.”

 

In the Name of Jesus.

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